A Week In Vancouver, BC, On A $97,000 Salary

Photo: Getty Images.
Welcome to Money Diaries where we are tackling the ever-present taboo that is money. We're asking real people how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
We're now paying $150 for all future published Money Diaries! Read the details here and submit your diary here.

Today: a student advisor working in higher education who makes $97,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on a flight of beer.
Occupation: Student Advisor
Industry: Higher Education
Age: 34
Location: Vancouver, BC
Salary: $77,000, plus $20,000 for freelance work
Net Worth: $55,000
Debt: $0
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $2,212 (plus sporadic freelance payments)
Pronouns: She/her

Monthly Expenses
Rent: $1,825 (I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment.)
Hydro: $15 to $17 (Other utilities are included in the rent.)
Internet: $75.04
Phone: $77.03 (This can easily run higher if I end up with data overages.
Barre Membership: $166.95 (This is pricey, but it's unlimited, and I love it.)
Catastrophic Illness Insurance: $36.09
Health Benefits: $81.30 (automatically deducted from my paycheque)
Dental Benefits: $66.28 (automatically deducted from my paycheque)
HelloFresh Meal Kit Delivery: $315.72
Netflix: $16.99 (I share with my parents, sister, aunt, and a former roomie. I use my aunt's Crave account.)
Spotify: $9.99
Amazon Prime: $8.95 (I'm going to cancel, I swear.)
RRSP: $1,000 (I was transferring this total to my TFSA each month to build up my emergency savings. Having reached my goal, I'm now putting $1,000 to my RRSP, which is a mix of stocks and bonds managed by my financial advisor.)
Annual Expenses
Renter's Insurance: $187.68

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
Neither of my parents went to university, but I popped out of the womb dreaming of ivory towers! I always loved school, so it's not a huge surprise that I did three degrees (BA, MA, and PhD) and now work in higher education. My parents provided help with my undergraduate tuition and encouraged me to save money from part-time work during both high school and undergrad. I also won awards and scholarships.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
I got a minimal financial education from my parents other than a vague sense that saving was good, and that you shouldn't necessarily buy something just because you can afford it. The first lesson stuck, the second not so much.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
When I was 14, I got tired of babysitting (still not a huge fan of little kids) and ended up talking my way into a job as a part-time reception assistant at a chiropractor's office. The job had a huge impact in building my professional confidence and knowledge of office culture. I had an easy time transitioning to positions of authority at a relatively young age later on.

Did you worry about money growing up?
Not until my early 20s, when my dad lost his job in the 2008 recession, and my parents' finances changed dramatically — and have never recovered. By that point, I was financially independent, but their loss undermined my sense of security and financial confidence.

Do you worry about money now?
I have more than enough money, especially given that I don't plan to have children, and I'm not particularly interested in owning property. But I have to be disciplined so I don't spend it all away. I love living in cities, eating out, and travelling, and the urban lifestyle can get pricey fast. I also want to make sure I can help my parents as they age, and I make significantly more than my siblings, so I feel a sense of responsibility.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
There was never a formal discussion, but it seemed to be understood that I would be responsible for my own finances when I continued on to graduate school at age 22. I'm very close with my aunt, and she would be willing to help me financially if necessary, but I'd prefer not to rely on her.

Day One

7:30 a.m. — My ambitious alarm goes off. Today is my last day of staycation, and I thought an early morning would help me transition back to a regular routine. My body disagrees. I snooze a few times and contemplate skipping my 9 a.m. barre class. However, I tap in to the feeling of accomplishment I will have afterwards and my gratitude for being able to attend in-person classes at all (studios have only been reopened for a few weeks).
8:20 a.m. — Water bottle filled, leggings on, out the door. I usually walk, but I'm running late and there's a bus pulling up at the stop outside my door, so I hop on (masked, of course). Caffeine before a workout is essential to me, so I grab a cappuccino at the coffee shop beside the studio ($5.94, including a 30% tip) and gulp it before class starts. $5.94
9 a.m. — I power through the session. I've been doing barre regularly for two years, and it has completely changed my relationship to fitness and my sense of what my body is capable of. I wanted to support the owners, so I didn't suspend my membership during COVID-19 closures and continued to do online classes at home.
10 a.m. — At a nearby café, I treat myself to Belgian waffles and a decaf lavender latte ($19.42, including a 30% tip). I love eating alone while reading. I start on Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work, which mostly makes me think about my boyfriend, D., who has been frustrated with work lately. I also text with my favourite aunt back in Ontario, asking how she feels about me visiting this summer. She thinks it's too risky, and I ultimately agree. I miss my family and friends in Ontario, and I've also been feeling like the flexibility of working from home is going to waste (I've been working remotely since mid-March). $19.42
11:30 a.m. — I walk home, clean up the kitchen, and do life admin, like submitting a receipt for yesterday's virtual counselling session (I have excellent insurance through my job). I also select meals for my upcoming HelloFresh deliveries (this is a vital activity). Around noon, I finally open up the freelance work I've been putting off. I work in a lackadaisical, all-the-tabs-open way, but I actually love this. One of my goals during vacation has been to embrace unstructured time, even if I spend some of it working.
12:30 p.m. — D. is heavily distracting. He's texting me about what I want from this relationship and where I see it going in the future. He loves to introduce big, weighty topics via text whereas my ideal approach would be to schedule a time that aligns with the moon phase, arrange healing crystals, and set an intention together before we dive in. (I'm joking. Kind of.)
2 p.m. — I forage in my refrigerator and finish off the remaining spoonfuls of a halloumi bowl, which is regrettably only cabbage, rice, and veggies now, the halloumi long vanished.
4:30 p.m. — I wrap up work and send off my document. I'm hungry and victorious and, since Work From Home is a lawless land, I decide to make dinner.
5 p.m. — I sit down with tacos (ground chorizo and corn in a crispy corn shell with cilantro, red onions, and hot salsa), a craft beer (I only like fruity, sour beers, and this one apparently has notes of passion fruit and pomegranate, which is right up my alley), and my brother's Disney+ log-in to watch Hamilton. I'm skeptical, especially when I see the two-hour-45-minute run time, but it ends up being engrossing.
8 p.m. — After cleaning up, I check my mailbox, which yields a treasure: the Olly vitamins I ordered a month ago. Olly's Flawless Complexion vitamins have made the biggest difference in my skin! My Joe Fresh order also arrives, and it includes an adorable new cheetah-print PJ set.
8:30 p.m. — I take a shower with lavender body wash (my favourite for evening showers) but leave my hair unwashed because I'm getting it blown out tomorrow. I post on social media about books and shows I've been enjoying recently, then read a giant (and not always exciting) things-you-should've-learned-but-probably-didn't book called An Incomplete Education. I'm in the art history and film section, so I daydream about museums I want to visit and classic films I'd like to watch. The Criterion Collection has a 14-day free trial, so I sign up for that. Are they still movies if they're art? Films, dahling.
10:45 p.m. — It usually takes me forever to fall asleep, so I get into bed with a wide margin for drifting off. For some people, lying in bed and not sleeping is anxiety provoking, but I think of it as a meditative time to hang out with my thoughts. I also listen to the audiobook of Glennon Doyle's Untamed.
Daily Total: $25.36

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — I'm better at waking up with my alarm today due to someone blasting music outside. I still roll around in bed for 15 minutes before getting up and throwing on clothes, though. Out the door, I stop to get coffee from a beloved café ($6.42, including a 30% tip) and am impressed that I make it to my 8:30 a.m. blow-out appointment with time to spare. $6.42
8:30 a.m. — I chat with my stylist for half the appointment and zone out with my phone for the other half. I leave with shiny, bouncy, pretty hair and feel like I have my life together ($49, plus tax and a 30% tip) $66.45
9:30 a.m. — At home, I cautiously open my post-vacation inbox. It's actually not too bad, and my 11 a.m. appointment has been rescheduled, which frees up my morning. I spend an hour or so responding to messages and updating my calendar for the next couple of weeks, but I fully close down my email around 10:45 a.m. to shift into a couple of hours of focused work. I mark the transition with a cup of Greek yogurt topped with granola and a drizzle of maple syrup.
12 p.m. — I've learned with great difficulty while working from home that I need to prepare food and eat before the never-ending Zoom calls begin. I recently heard a guest on my favourite podcast, Forever35 (seriously, start listening now) discuss her perfect breakfast: apple-turkey sausage, sweet potato, and apple sautéed together. I add kale and dried cranberries to my version and listen, aptly, to the latest episode of Forever35 while I cook and eat. I have enough time to unload the dishwasher, wipe down the kitchen, and sweep before signing in for my 1 p.m. Zoom meeting.
5:15 p.m. — After back-to-back calls all afternoon, I wrap up my last conversation and firmly close my email. ("Firmly" refers to my intention to not open it again until tomorrow morning, not how hard I hit the keys.) In celebration — and because my hunger is apparently the abyss that cannot be filled during pandemic times — I scarf two leftover tacos and finish the remaining third of the beer. My sister texts that she's on her way over, so I read more of Designing Your Work Life while I wait for her.
5:45 p.m. — My sister and I catch up on our weekends, shows we're watching, and life in general, then walk over to a small barbecue place. One of the things I treasure most about our relationship is our shared love of food. I order a bourbon cocktail, followed by Buffalo cauliflower. I'm not a vegetarian and why I do this rather than order brisket is unclear even to me. We split cornbread and hush puppies because they come with honey-butter that is the food of the gods. We talk about day trips we're hoping to take over the summer if our schedules and the weather ever cooperate. I pay for my drink and my dish as well as the ones we shared. She's my baby sister, and I make more than she does, so I try to make it easy for her when I can. ($35.07, including taxes and a 40% tip). $35.07
7:45 p.m. — I send a few texts about potential phone dates. Having lots of long-distance friends is amazing, but they also require proactive scheduling. I pack my bag for tomorrow morning's barre class, then change into PJs, and do my face routine. After a lot of tinkering, my skin is happiest with Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser, the occasional splash of The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA, and Herbivore's Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil. I light my favourite candle, Maison Louis Marie No. 4 Bois de Boulogne, and read on the couch. I'm working my way through Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light.

9:15 p.m. — I do a chill, yin-style yoga video that I get on-demand from one of my favourite local studios. I purchased a pack of online class credits last month and am still working through them.
10:15 p.m. — I watch the 25 minutes I have remaining in an episode of The Morning Show, then another 20 minutes or so of the next episode. Basically, I make my own rules of when to stop and start. Around 11 p.m., I climb into bed and fall asleep quickly.
Daily Total: $107.94

Day Three

7:40 a.m. — Surprisingly, I wake up before my 8 a.m. alarm but still lie in bed until 8:10 a.m. I don't know why I do this; some form of rebellion. I eventually climb out of bed, throw a few last things into my gym bag, and head out.
8:25 a.m. — I walk to the barre studio, stopping for a latte on the way ($6.18, including a 30% tip) and have a really good class. I tried to keep up an at-home routine during studio closures, but it wasn't the same. $6.18
10:30 a.m. — I make it back to my apartment, wash my face, and pull on a Zoom-appropriate top. I heat up the apple sausage hash from yesterday and fry two sunny-side-up eggs to top it. I chase the meal with sparkling water before logging into my first meeting at 11 a.m.
12:30 p.m. — I end up with an unexpected break, so I take a body shower, shave my legs, and change from workout clothes to work-from-home clothes. (How different are they, really?) Then I have more meetings and calls. I hear good news from a student I've been supporting; I'm always happy to celebrate their accomplishments.
3:15 p.m. — I walk over to a nearby apartment building to pick up free books I saw on my local Buy Nothing Facebook group. I'm back by 3:45 p.m., which gives me a few minutes to scarf the last of the tacos before I'm back on my next call.
5:45 p.m. — I take a few minutes to decompress by web surfing and phoning my bestie for a catch-up call. We met in residence during our first year of university and have only sometimes lived in the same city for the past decade. I'm proud of the relationship we've maintained, and I'm happy to hear that her mental health seems to be doing better. She's been struggling with pandemic-related anxiety.
7:30 p.m. — I have the I-don't-have-any-food-in-the-house feeling and briefly consider takeout, but then I fridge forage and put together a delicious salad of roasted chickpeas, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, crisped pita, and fried halloumi. I open a rhubarb cider and drink half as I cook and the other half as I eat while watching The Morning Show.
9 p.m. — I stop watching TV long enough to wash my face, change into PJs, and review my task list for tomorrow, so I have a clear plan for the day. I think about what I can do to make the day feel memorable and decide to buy a ticket for Dan Savage's Hump! film fest streaming tomorrow night. $33.24
10: 15 p.m. — I watch the next episode of The Morning Show and go to bed when it's over.
Daily Total: $39.42

Day Four

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off. Oddly, the knowledge that I have a 9 a.m. meeting makes me less motivated to get up? I tell myself the story that I wouldn't have time to do anything before the meeting anyways (patently false, but there you have it), so I may as well just carry on in bed. It's fully 8:50 a.m. when I get up, pull on a Zoom-appropriate top (with PJ shorts still on my lower half), throw together black tea with milk, and sign in.
10:05 a.m. — I clean up the kitchen and start the dishwasher, then pull on leggings and duck across the street to Starbucks for a grande soy latte ($5.83, including a 30% tip). I usually stick to independent coffee shops, but the local chain near me has recently been in the news as stories have come out about a culture of sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. It's truly hard to know what's going on at a business that might otherwise seem exactly like the kind of place I'd want to support. $5.83
11:05 a.m. — I drink half of the latte while attending to emails, then follow through on one of the priorities I set last night: doing a yoga class online. It's a vigorous flow, and I definitely sweat. After the 55-minute session, I take a shower and make food: the last of the cucumber-tomato-avocado salad, thickly sliced bacon, and an omelette with parsley, tomatoes, and feta.
5:05 p.m. — I somehow managed to complete one (productive!) meeting, prep a slide deck, handle admin for a virtual workshop, have an advising conversation, and deliver said workshop (with actually decent attendance numbers for a Friday afternoon). It's now beautifully sunny, and my apartment is feeling overheated, so I go for a walk along the sea wall. I listen to the latest episodes of Esther Perel's Where Should We Begin? and Rachel Brathen's Yoga Girl: Conversations From The Heart. I do a five-kilometre loop, stopping to pick up a takeout order of “ginger not beef” from a great vegan restaurant ($19.85, including a 25% tip) along the route. $19.85
7:15 p.m. — I get home and settle in on the couch to eat, drink a rhubarb cider, and watch the finale of The Morning Show. I was disengaged by the last few episodes, but the finale is powerful and engrossing. After it ends, I immediately Google whether there will be a second season, and it looks like I'm in luck! I read a few blog posts and pause my HelloFresh order for a week to try Goodfood instead. The order costs the same as my regular one does, so there's no additional expense.
9 p.m. — I sign in to my live stream for the Hump! film fest. It's curated by the writer Dan Savage of Savage Love fame and consists of short films of people having sex. Anyone can submit their videos, and the lineup encourages diversity and representation — it's a fascinating exploration of human sexuality. Sex positivity is really important to me, and work like his film fest encourages important conversations. I've attended Hump! live in theatres in the past, but when it moved online due to the pandemic, it seemed especially important to support it. I'm in bed by 11:40 p.m.
Daily Total: $25.68

Day Five

8:50 a.m. — It occurs to me that I should get up and get dressed in time to let my house cleaner in at 9 a.m. I throw on leggings and a hoodie, make black tea with milk, and let her in. After a bit of work, I stop into a coffee shop for a latte and cranberry-oatmeal muffin ($10.17, including a 30% tip). I sit outside and read The Lady in the Lake on my phone. I'm enjoying it more than I expected. I'm not usually into thrillers. $10.17
11 a.m. — I go to my barre class and feel pretty good about it, although I still take several breaks (let's be honest, I did that before quarantine, too). After class wraps, I walk back to my neighbourhood and stop at a farmers' market for zucchini, kale, carrots, and two bottles of local wine. $58.50
12:45 p.m. — Back home, I wash my face and get changed. My credit card has been charged $73.50 for the house cleaning. I make my favourite kale Caesar salad using a Smitten Kitchen recipe and listen to more of the Untamed audiobook while I eat. $73.50
2 p.m. — My friend and I cancel our plans to go for a walk, because it's raining. I don't mind the prospect of a cozy afternoon, and I want to do some work anyway.
6 p.m. — I finish a work document, send it off, catch up on emails and admin, and plan out goals for next week. I like doing at least one block of work over the weekend so that I can be more casual with hours Monday through Friday. I'm way more productive and creative when I'm not slammed between meetings and calls. I also spend a good amount of time researching hikes and day trips for tomorrow. Due to the rain today, anything even slightly rugged is going to be muddy, so I look for an easy walking trail that isn't too far away. I feel quite savvy figuring this out.
6:30 p.m. — I make it a Smitten Kitchen–themed day and cook zucchini rice gratin. I put my mask on and walk across the street to the grocery store for an onion, tomatoes, and sausages. The total comes to $12.76, but I use my reward points, which cover $10. $2.76
7 p.m. — I pop on a podcast and start cooking. Once the casserole is in the oven (it takes almost 90 minutes to bake), I'm inspired to put in a load of laundry and clean out a cupboard where spices have spilled.
8:30 p.m. — The casserole has finally come together, so I eat it along with a garlic-and-herb sausage and sparkling water while watching Normal People. I really liked the series at first but then lost interest. I watch a couple of episodes, break to get clothes from the dryer, and poke around on the internet. A blogger and podcaster I like has been raving about the book Kristin Lavransdatter. It seems lengthy and involved, so I order it off Amazon and pay with a gift card.
10:45 p.m. — I finish Normal People and immediately get sucked into rabbit hole reading articles about it. The the show is a good adaptation of a tricky novel, but I have some feelings about its portrayal of kink. It seems to suggest that kinky sexuality is connected to having suffered abuse. While I'm sure that does sometimes happen, I wish there were also more portrayals of folks experimenting with kink as a way of flourishing rather than coping. It's 11:45 p.m. when I pack it in.
Daily Total: $144.93

Day Six

10:15 a.m. — Apparently, I needed sleep! I didn't set an alarm and left my phone in the other room. If I could make one change in my life, I'd never wake up to an alarm again. I'm happy I got the rest, but I'm also eager to get out the door, especially with the sunny weather. I put on comfy clothes and lots of sunscreen, then stop for a latte ($6.24, including a 30% tip) on the way to the SkyTrain. Pre-COVID, I would get a monthly unlimited transit pass for $98, but I rarely use transit since I started working from home in March, so now I pay per ride. Today, my round trip is $6. $12.24
11:30 a.m. — To get to the trail, I have to change trains at the stop closest to D.'s place, so I decide to surprise him. Yes, I have a boyfriend I haven't spoken to for the past five days. But that's one of the things I like about our relationship? We spent a lot of time together when he was temporarily laid off in the early days of COVID-19, and I'm relishing having solo time back. I make a stop at McDonald's for two sausage and egg McMuffins, a guilty pleasure for both of us, and make my way to his place. We hang out, eat breakfast, and cuddle until it's time for him to go to work. $8.38
1:30 p.m. — We walk to the train together and stop so he can pick up a bottle of wine for a get-together tonight. He's having troubles with his card, so I put the wine on mine. We get on our trains and head in opposite directions. $15.30
2 p.m. — I arrive at a wooded lakefront trail. It's not far out of the city and super-accessible by public transit, but it feels like a mini getaway. I do an easy six-kilometre loop, drinking in the view of the trees and the lake. By the time I get back to the main park, I'm parched, so I buy an overpriced bottle of water. $2.71
4:15 p.m. — The other advantage of this area is that it's right next to a stretch of craft breweries. The one I most want to visit is full, so I leave my number and go to one farther down the road. I sit at the bar and have a tasting flight ($14.98, including a $5 tip) while I text friends, play Scrabble on my phone, and read more of Lady in the Lake. $14.98
5:15 p.m. — I get a text from the first brewery, saying there's a seat for me, and I can't resist. I need to get food in me, so I order the charcuterie plate and a tasting flight ($35.83, including a 30% tip). I hang out until my phone is dead, and it definitely feels like it's time to stop drinking. $35.83
7 p.m. — Charcuterie for dinner needs gelato for dessert, am I right? I stop at a place a block from my apartment and get one scoop of chocolate-orange and one scoop of coconut ($10.72, including a 30% tip). Then I walk home, collapse on the couch, and rewatch Hamilton, because I've been singing the songs in my head all week. $10.72
9:30 p.m. — I flit between Hamilton, social media, a few paid surveys, and tidying the apartment. I pause the video stream, wash my face, slather on a Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask, and run a bath with a Lush bath bomb. I soak for 45 minutes while listening to my audiobook.
10:20 p.m. — There's no better feeling than getting out of the bath and climbing into PJs. Rather than finish Hamilton, I finish Lady in the Lake. The ending is a bit underwhelming, but I recommend the book.
Daily Total: $94.16

Day Seven

8 a.m. — My alarm goes off, and I lay in bed scrolling around for awhile. Then I get up, put on workout wear, and throw my SodaStream bottle in my bag. You know the routine: latte on the walk over, then barre class at 9 a.m. $5.83
10:20 a.m. — I arrive back at my apartment and take a body shower, wash my face, and pop on a sample of vitamin C serum I found under my sink. I get dressed and, to avoid getting sucked into email before my first call, I read a couple of chapters of Designing Your Work Life.
12 p.m. — My first call is wrapped up, so I reheat the rice and zucchini casserole and put two over-easy eggs on top with hot sauce. It's delicious, which is good, because I'll probably be eating it for the rest of the week.
3:15 p.m. — I take advantage of a break in calls to walk over to a pharmacy to swap my empty SodaStream canister for a full one and buy dish sponges and a case of San Pellegrino sparkling iced tea. Then I head back to calls until 5 p.m., when I pause to snack on a rice cake with knockoff Nutella. I call one of my best friends (I met this one in grad school), and we spend an hour and a half catching up. $31.40
6:45 p.m. — My HelloFresh order has arrived, but I want to make sure I get through all the produce in my fridge first. I sauté a sweet potato, an apple, carrots, and kale with garlic sausages and eat while listening to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. I want to do more work after dinner, and I find that I can turn podcasts and audiobooks off and refocus, but once I start in on TV, I'm down for the count.
7:45 p.m. — I dive into emails, admin, and reporting for work. I can focus better later in the day, and I sometimes prefer to work without the interruption of calls and meetings. I end up working until just after 10 p.m. Then I make myself a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows as a mini-reward and go to bed just before 11 p.m.
Daily Total: $37.23
Money Diaries are meant to reflect an individual's experience and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

For more money diaries, click here. Do you have a Money Diary you'd like to share? Submit it with us here.

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here or email us here.

More from Work & Money